81. Telephone Conversation Between Senator Everett Dirksen and President Johnson1

President: Everett?

Dirksen: Yeah?

President: Everett, there’s two things I wanted to raise with you. First, we’re being asked about some statement which you made in a speech that any peace thing would be politics before the election, or something like that. I—

Dirksen: Let me tell you what that was.

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President: I’m gonna dodge out of it. But I got out of this race to get out of politics and get into peace and I’m going to get peace any day I can if it’s right up to the night of the election ‘cause I got a lot of boys out there and I want to stop killing them when I can.

Dirksen: 25 reporters were in Chicago there at the lawyers’ breakfast. The goddamned UPI said, “So, you think it’s a gimmick?” I said, “I didn’t say anything of the kind, and I’m not going to say anything until I find out what the story is.”

President: All right, well, that’s—

Dirksen: “So you think that’s a gimmick?” I said, “You put words into my mouth, mister, and Don’t do it.” He wrote that down. We just caught it down-state here.

President: Well, all of them are calling us and wanting to know what’s our response and I just told them that—

Dirksen: You’re going to tie it up and down for me.

President: We’re not going to have any—we’re not going to get into a fight with you. Now the second thing is we must not mention—we must not mention the DMZ and the shelling of the cities because if they think—if they think that this is reciprocity, their yellow Oriental face—they’ve got to save it. Now what we’re doing there, when and if we ever do get a peace, we’re going to say to them, that we will stop the bombing, but we want you to know that if you shell the cities, it starts it immediately. We want you to know if you abuse the DMZ, it starts it automatically. Now they can refuse to do something better than they can agree to it. Do you follow me? So Don’t spell out those things unless you have to. Now the main position is I think we’ve got to take is that the President has taken the position that he would not stop the bombing as long as it endangered American men. Therefore, you do not see how any man could want to stop killing the enemy only to start killing our own men. And that’s where we’re going to stand. And when and if they ever come under, why the first ones to know it will be you and Mansfield and the candidates, and I’ll tell them all. But they have not—they have not agreed to anything like this, but we Don’t want to point out what they’ve got to agree to because if we do they never will agree to anything. Okay?

Dirksen: All right. Bye.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Dirksen, October 16, 1968, 3:27 p.m., Tape F6810.04, PNO 5. No classification marking. This transcript was prepared specifically for this volume in the Office of the Historian. From Washington Johnson placed the call to Dirksen, who was in Champaign, Illinois, in order to inquire about a statement the Senator had made during a speech in Chicago. (Ibid., President’s Daily Diary) This conversation followed a telephone call Johnson had made to Dirksen earlier that day regarding his briefing of the Presidential candidates. Dirksen made the following pledge: “You stand your ground and I stand with you.” (Ibid., Recordings and Transcripts, Recording of Telephone Conversation Between Johnson and Dirksen, October 16, 1968, 1:40 p.m., Tape F6810.04, PNO 4)